Bill would overhaul school textbook review process

Lawmakers are considering an overhaul to Louisiana’s process for reviewing textbooks to give individual public school districts more freedom to decide which instructional materials they want to use.

The Senate Education Committee agreed without objection to the proposal, advancing it to the full Senate for debate.

State Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, the committee chairman and sponsor of Senate Bill 336, said he’s trying to address concerns that parents have limited ability to review and comment on the teaching materials used in their children’s schools.

The measure would require the state education department to review instructional materials in English, math, science and social studies to decide whether they meet state educational standards.

The department would have to use review panels including educators and content experts.

But the department wouldn’t decide which books and materials should be used, instead leaving that to the local districts — though with help in bulk purchasing to get cheaper deals for buying the supplies.

“This creates a master list of reviewed books, and that for all practical purposes ends the responsibility of the Department of Education,” Appel said.

School districts would use review committees of teachers, parents and others to make recommendations on which materials should be used, and they could choose items that aren’t on the state-reviewed list.

“This is as close as we can get to the parents being involved in the decisions that have to be made about teaching materials and curriculum materials,” Appel said.

The education department would be required to post online the textbooks and instructional materials it reviews, rather than just filing them with certain local libraries. Public comment on the teaching materials also would be allowed online.

Appel’s bill also encourages the use of electronic textbooks and other digital content, instead of printed materials.